Of the Los Angeles Dodgers who have made their MLB debut during the 2019 season, arguably the two most impressive have been Will Smith and Alex Verdugo.
They began the season in vastly different positions: Verdugo was essentially a lock to make the Opening Day roster after dominating at the Triple-A level, while Smith had only spent 25 games with the Dodgers’ top affiliate to close the 2018 campaign.
Austin Barnes suffering a strained groin in late May created an opportunity for Smith, which he took full advantage of. He has now returned for a third stint with the club in the wake of Barnes being mired in a prolonged slump.
Although Smith was not in the lineup for Friday’s series opener against the Washington Nationals, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he will play the next two and be the club’s primary starter behind the plate, via MLB Network Radio:
“He’s going to have a good run, he’s earned it. He’s not going to be in there [Friday] but he’ll play the next two. … He’s earned it, like I said, which is most important. … He’s going to be our primary catcher, and having a nice mentor in Russell Martin is a good thing. Will is going to get the lion’s share.”
Smith has hit .269/.345/.654 with one double, three home runs and six RBI through nine games (seven starts) with the Dodgers thus far. Smith’s highlights in his young Major League career include his first home run also being a walk-off.
When he joined the Dodgers last month, Smith hit a walk-off home run in his first game back. That extended the Dodgers’ MLB record of consecutive walk-off homers hit by a rookie to three, and gave them another all-time record with four overall walk-offs to come via a rookie homer.
This figures to be Smith’s longest run with the club, though he’s taken the shuffling to and from Oklahoma City in stride. “I knew I was going to be sent back down at some point, so I wasn’t going to let that bug me at all. I didn’t, and I played well,” Smith said in June.
“My confidence is very high here, and I carried it over to OKC and kind of let my play show it. Just kept playing hard and put together some good at-bats.”